Vegetarian Cooking with Isara Garden, Pai

If I ever decide to leave Amsterdam, I would want to live in Pai. Pai is a small village in northern Thailand and I have completely fallen in love with its immense beauty and sparkly vibes. The center of the village is mostly conquered by backpackers with small tattoos, huge dreams and relaxed attitudes. By day, people lay in their hammock across the river or wander through the greenest rice fields you’ll ever see. At night, people go to small bars to dance on reggae music or talk for hours in tree houses. This is where you want to be. Pai is absolute magic.

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 After a couple of days of wandering, relaxing and daydreaming in Pai, we decided that it was time to do something. In the morning, we were picked up by Muk from Isara Garden to participate in her vegetarian cooking course. We drove through the beautiful countryside of Pai on the back of her scooter, with our hairs untied and unstoppable smiling faces. Happiness was in the air.

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Muk, a young Thai woman, gives cooking courses in small groups in her own house. Today, we were the only participants. We instantly felt comfortable in Muk’s place. The house had no walls and was surrounded by a wild garden. Muk owns her own chickens and grows some vegetables and herbs. Her collection of cooking books made me jealous.

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Muk started the course by giving us a book that told something about her life and food philosophy: 

For me, one of the most important things with food is balance – that we listen to our bodies and don’t stress too much about whether we are eating the right or the wrong thing. Food should never be a stressful part of our lives, instead it should nourish us and help us live our  passions. I wrote this book with happiness and don’t wish to change everyone’s lifestyle, but just to spark a realization that cooking can be simple and easy

After getting to know each other a little bit better, it was time for some cooking. 

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The first recipe we made where these fresh herb rolls with a tamarind dip. We filled rice paper with nothing but fresh vegetables, pineapple and lots of herbs. They tasted amazing, even without the tamarind dip. I was reminded once again how much I really, really love my veggies. IMG_0010

The second thing “we” made (we basically watched, while Muk cooked) was this young coconut soup with lemongrass and tofu.  It was, hands down, the best soup I have ever tasted; packed with flavor and very creamy. For the next two weeks or so, this soup was mentioned numerous times a day. Yes, people, it was that good. 

IMG_0013Dish number three: sticky tofu. We marinated the tofu in the leftovers of the tamarind sauce and then served it with a ton of fried garlic, pepper and lemongrass. Who dares to say tofu is boring now? 

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We ended the afternoon with this crispy rice salad. Our stomaches had reached their limit, but the salad was so good that we finished it all. Okay, finished it all. Ignoring the fact that I’m full is something I’m very skilled at. It is slowly becoming my biggest talent (watching a whole season of one serie in one weekend is still my biggest talent). 

Four hours and ten pounds later, we were back in the beautiful center of Pai.  If you ever find yourself somewhere in Pai, you should really go and visit Isara Garden. A four hour lesson is approximately 20 euros per person, which is such good value for your money. 

Isara Garden Asian and Vegetarian Fusion Cooking Lab
Thursday to Sunday 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. 1,000 Baht/person
Includes pickup, food & drinks

 

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